We are living in interesting times. Scientists are beginning
again to speak openly and seriously about the existence of a
The revolution has been long in the making. But many of the
pieces, which have been falling into place for decades, are
coming to a head.
For the past one hundred and fifty years, science has been a
force that has opposed and indeed denigrated belief in a
Borei Olom. But this appears to be changing. The
change may not yet be palpable to the average person. It may
be a bit slow in coming. But it is there.
One need only walk into a library and look at the titles of
some recent books. Some of these books were written by
believers; but many were written by agnostics or atheists.
Here are some recent titles: G-d and the Astronomers,
G-d and the New Physics, The Creator and the
The message is quite clear. G-d is very much on the mind of
scientists these days. The reason: Evidence favoring the
existence of a Borei Olom is just simply too
overwhelming to ignore.
This is not to say that we can expect a stampede of
scientists into our shuls. Scientists are not simply
going to walk away from their long held and cherished
beliefs. They certainly will not easily admit that they have
been wrong all along.
So we find that they are still attempting to create
alternative theories to explain the facts. But in almost all
cases, these attempts are nothing more than idle speculation
and myth-making. To overcome the awesome evidence in favor of
a Borei Olom, it is necessary to twist and turn, to
propose theories that scientists know and admit are unproven
and indeed in many cases totally unprovable.
This change that is taking place has been most clearly
articulated by scientists who are involved in, or have an
interest in, cosmology, astronomy, and physics. The fact of
the existence of a revolution is certainly less obvious in
the area of the life sciences. Biologists still believe that
they will be able to solve the riddle of life without having
to refer to a Creator. But if one reads between the lines,
one can discern even in the area of biology that science is
clearly on the defensive.
One need only look at some of the responses that highly
reputable scientists are propounding to answer the question
of how life arose on this planet. One such example should
suffice to drive home the point.
The discovery of the role DNA plays in heredity, the
elucidation of its construction and the understanding of
means by which the information on the DNA is translated by
the body into proteins, the chemicals of life, rank among the
greatest achievements of twentieth century biology and
science. A good deal of the credit for these discoveries has
gone to Francis Crick who, together with James Watson, won
the Nobel Prize for having determined the nature of DNA.
Crick is certainly one of the most highly respected
scientists of the century.
In '81, Crick wrote a book called Life Itself: Its Origins
and Nature in which he hypothesizes about the origins of
life on Earth. He discusses at some length the improbability
of life arising by chance and also explains why the
conditions on a primitive Earth could not have been suitable
for the development of life. He then gives us his conclusion.
The best alternative, he says, is to suppose that aliens did
it. He emphatically declares that the most sensible
conclusion one can reach is that aliens are responsible for
the existence of life on Earth.
No, he was not joking.
Life, he argues, could not have arisen spontaneously on
Earth. It happened too quickly. It is too complex. Thus, he
says we must suppose that it arose first somewhere else in
the universe. Then we must further suppose that life in this
distant location evolved into a very advanced civilization.
For reasons which we can only speculate about, and speculate
he does, this advanced civilization decided one day to seed
the universe with life. So they sent out primitive organisms
in a spaceship to the far reaches of the galaxy in the hope
that these spaceships would encounter other planets that
might be suitable for the evolution of life. One of these
spaceships landed on planet Earth. That's how we got here,
He even goes so far as to propose that we earthlings do the
Apparently, the notion of an all powerful Creator is too
"farfetched" for illustrious scientists such as he. So they
are willing to accept any alternative theory, no matter how
farfetched, rather than succumb to belief in the existence of
Crick is not the only one having trouble believing that life
could have formed by chance on Earth.
Some other very prominent scientists, Sir Fred Hoyle and
Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe, have come up with another
strange idea because they too think that life could not have
developed randomly on Earth. So they as well look to outer
space to find the cause. They do not blame aliens. But they
do hypothesize that space is full of life-forming carbon
chemicals that drifted onto Earth and gave this planet the
jump start it needed for the development of life.
My objective in presenting these theories is not to discuss
them. They are not scientific in that they lack the key
ingredient that science possesses -- they cannot be proved
nor disproved. Hence, they are no more than mere
My point in mentioning these outlandish theories is to
highlight the sorry state of scientific theories about the
origins of life. One thing is certain. When you see highly
respected scientists creating myths, you know that science
has encountered a very serious, intractable problem.
What has happened to the theory of evolution which is
supposed to account in a "scientific" way for the origin of
life? Why in general the renewed openness to the existence of
a Creator? What has sparked this revolution in science?
The answer is very many things, from astronomy to physics to
fossils to biology. For now, let us focus on just one small
piece of one part of the total puzzle: the "numbers" that
pertain to the theory of evolution.
At the time the theory of evolution was first proposed about
150 years ago, no one had any real idea of how complex life
really is. The microscope, which had been in use since the
late 17th century, was by modern standards still quite
primitive. Very little was known about even something as
basic as the structure of the cell, the building block of all
living things. Because organic chemistry was also in its
infancy, no analysis of the myriads of chemicals that
comprise the cell was even possible. The existence of DNA as
a blueprint for life, which was fully understood only less
than fifty years ago, was not even suspected. Indeed,
Mendelian genetics was still totally unknown. (Though Mendel
did his work during the same general period as Darwin, his
ideas did not become an established part of scientific
thought until about half a century after Darwin wrote.)
Evolutionary theory was hence built on scanty knowledge of
what life and living things are really like. All Darwin could
examine was the gross structure of plants and animals. All he
could do was compare eye to eye, tooth to tooth, claw to
claw, limb to limb.
But what he saw at this level could be no more than
misleading. Two slightly different organs may appear to the
observer to be just a tad different from each other. But
their similarities and their comparable features belie the
overwhelming complexity that often must exist, the countless
changes that minute chemicals must undergo, to effectuate the
small differences visible to the naked eye.
Despite the scientific blindness under which he labored,
Darwin is still known to have said that he "shuddered" when
he thought about the complexity of the eye. Even at the gross
level, the eye seems so inordinately complicated that one
must have doubts about whether such an organ could have
developed through random minute changes of previously
As information about the realities underlying life became
known, the theory of evolution of course underwent changes as
well. Darwin's basic conception of minute changes coupled
with natural selection as the driving force behind
evolutionary change was not doubted. But the methods by which
changes could be effected and the end results of these
changes became far better understood. Hence it was possible
to put evolutionary theory on a somewhat more solid
Indeed, using things like population genetics, it was
possible to make all sorts of calculations about how easy or
how difficult it is for evolution to happen. The numbers
generated during the early part of the century led scientists
to believe that evolution was on firm theoretical ground.
By mid-century, biologists were so confident of their
position that in '53, a Nobel laureate and Harvard University
biology professor, George Wald, made the following pompous
and foolish declaration in an article in Scientific
"However improbable we regard this event [referring to the
start of life], or any of the steps which it involves, given
enough time it will almost certainly happen at least once. .
. . Time is in fact the hero of the plot. . . . What we
regard as impossible on the basis of human experience is
meaningless here [because billions of years are at issue].
Given so much time the `impossible' becomes the possible, the
possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One
has only to wait: time itself performs the miracles."
The myth of monkeys and typewriters at its best. [See
Yated parshas Shemos and Voeiro]
If the tragic effects of this sort of statement were not so
great, the statement would be cause for laughter.
Unfortunately, it was statements such as these that misled
and spiritually destroyed generations of people, countless
Be that as it may, by mid century all seemed well, as far as
the scientific community was concerned -- that is, until DNA
was understood and the mathematicians took a closer look at
the problem. Ironically, the elucidation of DNA occurred in
the very same year that Wald's ridiculous statement was
published in Scientific American.
Before the discovery of DNA, the basic unit of heredity was
considered to be the gene. Precisely what this thing was, was
not known. All that was known was that there were some sort
of packets, many of them, that got transmitted from parent(s)
to child. These packets contained information which would
determine, in the human for example, what the child would be
like, black or red hair, white or dark skin, tall or
Making calculations where the basic unit of information is
something like a whole gene, a discrete, singular packet of
information, is akin to the sort of thing Darwin did years
earlier. Manipulating numbers when gross structures or entire
genes are involved does not necessarily lead to arithmetic
But things began to unravel with the discovery of DNA and the
emergence of an understanding of how information within
living things was stored, transmitted and used. Genes are
not, as was earlier supposed, neat little packets of unitary
material that can be manipulated numerically as whole single
items. Rather they are comprised of lengthy chapters of
detailed, minute information.
There are pages and pages of information to contend with. The
DNA language is comprised of a four letter alphabet. These
"letters" are used to "write" all the detailed information
necessary for the construction of an organism. Human DNA, for
example, is several billion letters long.
Once DNA was discovered and the mechanism for the translation
of the DNA to proteins understood, the picture changed
entirely. Now for the first time, it became possible to make
some real calculations, to determine exactly what had to
occur for changes of any sort to happen. For evolutionary
change to take place, vast numbers of data items must be
affected. And once the calculations were made, it became
obvious to all that randomness alone could not create life.
There has to be far more to it than chance.
How dramatic the change in attitude was can be seen from a
later issue of Scientific American. In '79, it devoted
a special edition to the question of the origins of life.
Professor Wald's article, which had so arrogantly and
confidently declared that randomness plus time would
certainly produce life, was reprinted in full. But this time
it came with the following editorial comment:
"Although stimulating, this article probably represents one
of the very few times in his professional life when Wald has
Why the change of heart? Because when the
calculations are done, it becomes patently clear that
randomness could not have produced life. As Sir Fred Hoyle
[who thinks that life's chemicals originate in outer space]
put it, the spontaneous emergence of a single-cell organism
from random couplings of chemicals "is about as likely as the
assemblage of a 747 by a tornado whirling through a junk
yard." Indeed, since 1979, no reputable scientific journal
has accepted any article which presupposes that life arose
merely by chance.
We cannot infer from this that scientists have abandoned
evolutionary theory. But certainly simple randomness and
chance are no longer viewed as the driving forces behind
The revolution that is occurring in the sciences ought to be
good news. The discoveries of science may be leading us to
the time when universal belief in a Borei Olom will be
a reality. Certainly, the discoveries of science can no
longer pretend to place those who believe in Hashem on the
defensive. To the contrary, those who refuse to accept a
Borei Olom are now on the defensive and working hard
to explain the facts.
G-d willing, we will look next time at some of the numbers
that have caused this change of affairs.